Bringing Mental Health to the Forefront

October is Mental Health Foundation Australia’s Mental Health Month and a welcome reminder that #MentalHealthMatters. It’s no secret that the AV industry has been significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, from the sudden halt in events and shuttered venues to reinventing ways that integrators can safely service their clients.

One of the most popular panel discussions at this year’s Integrate expo was “Mental Health in AV Today,” presented by AVIXA® and featuring leaders from Australia-based integration firms Pro AV Solutions and Diversified, event producer and venue Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), and a mental health expert from Australia’s National Mental Health Commission. The panel was moderated by Executive Insight’s Graham Evans.

Raising the Mental Health Conversation

The discussion aimed to raise awareness of the mental health conversation in AV, focusing on the need and provision of mental health support services for employees — a topic thrust into the foreground since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the first few months of the year.

This important and timely topic was revisited at the APAC members’ forum in August, where business managers and members from across the APAC region shared their personal experiences as well as ways in which their companies address employees’ mental health concerns.

Employee Assistance Programs

Attendees of both virtual events heard about employee assistance programs (EAPs), a benefit harnessed by organisations large and small to assist their employees with personal or work-related problems that may impact their health, mental and emotional well-being, and, ultimately, their job performance. In the AV industry, challenges to the workforce such as long hours, company acquisitions, career changes, and loss of employment or business opportunities can have a significant or cumulative effect on an employee or business owner’s performance.

“It provides a lot of comfort to our team when they know that we are providing support for their health and safety,” said Kylee Naglost, Managing Director of Pro AV Solutions, which has had an EAP in place for several years. “We want to encourage people to access that service and to stress that mental health is not a taboo subject. In our daily and weekly communications to staff, we promote the service and make it clear that employees’ safety and well-being is paramount.”
As well as access to face-to-face, telephone, and online counseling, the EAP provides tools and tips around general wellness, healthy eating, and exercising via an app. Because the pandemic has forced many workers into isolation as they work from home, in its messaging, the company also stresses the importance of connecting with colleagues, whether its virtual coffee breaks, drinks, or simply checking in with your buddy, said Naglost.

“Having an EAP and pivoting it toward mental health is brilliant,” said Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission. “Talking about mental health doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re human. Reminding people about good nutrition and exercise is good, and providing information to people on how they can access help. Leadership is saying to people it’s OK to not feel OK; what’s not OK is to not reach out for help.”

MCEC’s Equipment and Infrastructure Manager Michael Walker felt that his organisation was in a strong position to support its staff when COVID-19 hit, as it had engaged with an EAP program for many years. “We placed a strong emphasis on the mental health aspect of our workforce, including various wellness initiatives. We were always here to listen and to have that conversation,” he said. “Having the EAP in our back pocket meant we didn’t have to renormalise any of the conversations around mental health or our wellness activities. Our executives made it their mission to communicate daily, reminding employees of the resources available and empowering the leadership to walk along that journey in the changing environment with our teams.”

AVIXA is committed to providing information and resources to members on the topic of mental health, as well as forums to discuss mental health in AV and ways in which organisations can help their employees weather the current and future storms.

Click here for more on mental health support organisations in the Asia-Pacific region.